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Analyzing social media for Super Tuesday insights

March 1, 2016 at 8:30 PM EDT
Hari Sreenivasan and the NewsHour data team analyze social media for insights on today’s Super Tuesday vote, including: the topics that matter most to Facebook users (racism, discrimination, Christianity and guns), the most-searched Republican candidate on the Internet (Donald Trump), and how Democrats seem to be split along geographic lines.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And now we turn to Hari Sreenivasan to see what social media data may reveal about today’s Super Tuesday vote.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Thanks.

Today, voters in 11 states and American Samoa will raise their political voice with delegates on the line in this year’s race. Will their demographics and what’s on their mind give us clues as to how they will vote? Our data team looked for clues in the numbers.

According to the census, more than 60 million Americans are old enough to vote in Super Tuesday states. That’s more than a quarter of the country’s voting-age population. And in many ways, these voters offer the widest cross-section of America that we have seen so far this election cycle.

For example, the states voting tonight include a wide range of incomes. Alaskans have a median household income of $71,000, while Arkansan households earn on average a little more than $41,000. That’s far less than the national median household income.

But what information are these households searching for and talking about? According to data from Google News Lab, Donald Trump was the most searched-for Republican candidate across Super Tuesday states. When people in today’s contested states were searching for information on the Democratic candidates, more people were searching for Bernie Sanders than Hillary Clinton.

Search results also showed a geographic split. Sanders’ information was sought in states that were North and West, such as Vermont, Minnesota and Colorado, even Texas and Oklahoma, while Clinton was being searched for more in places like Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, and even Virginia.

As in contests past, what’s on the mind of the voter and the conversations they share across social media depends on where you look. Across the Deep South, Christianity was the biggest conversation driver on Facebook in relation to politics this election cycle.

Among Facebook users in Super Tuesday states overall, the most talked-about topics were racism and discrimination, followed by Christianity and guns.

If you look north and to the states west of the Mississippi, the biggest concerns were Wall Street and financial regulation. While Facebook users nationwide weren’t talking about this issue, they were concerned about the economy and jobs. And further north, the most significant topic to Alaska’s Facebook users was border security.

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